Whether you’re a professional composer or an amateur musician, chances are good that you’ve performed or are at least familiar with music transcription. This is the process of transcribing audio into music notation.
Traditionally, music transcription has been reserved for professionals, as the process requires a trained ear and years of experience to pick out subtle notes and nuances.
These days, the emergence of music notation software programs has made this process relatively accessible to a wider range of musicians. Using the right music transcription software offers a wide range of benefits that include but are not limited to:
- Speed changes, so you can play along or hear more clearly
- Automation tools for identifying notes and chords
- The ability to change the key (transposition up or down)
- The option to print, export, and share transcriptions
This article introduces you to the three best transcription software programs to help you transcribe music accurately. We’ll also discuss a few alternatives to these programs and highlight their main features and functions.
- The 3 best software programs for music transcription
- Other common music transcription software
The 3 best software programs for music transcription
Your choice of software can be the difference between a smooth or difficult transcription. Ideally, you should opt for software that is user-friendly and comprehensive in its functions.
Explore our top three picks to consider when looking for the best music transcription software.
Transcribe! offers a multitude of features that aim to help musicians and songwriters decipher an audio track to write or play it. The application lets users loop audio files and use the integrated piano keyboard for more accurate transcription.
Keep in mind that this is not an automatic music transcription tool, but rather an assistant that facilitates the process by providing transcription-specific features. Additionally, Transcribe! can be used for speech transcription.
Transcribe! is compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems.
- A record function that lets users record audio for analog sources
- Audio waveform display
- Video file display
- A note-guessing and chord-guessing feature for interpreting spectrum information
- Adjustable speed
- Audio processing effects, such as slowdown, pitch change, and EQ filtering
Pricing: Transcribe! has a 30-day trial period and then costs $39 for a single copy. The cost goes down for each copy purchased by an organization at one time.
ScoreCloud is a comprehensive transcription tool that lets musicians quickly turn songs into sheet music. It accommodates both audio and MIDI files and puts several editing tools at the user’s disposal.
ScoreCloud lets you automatically save your songs online and syncs your edits to all devices. This is convenient if you want to share a piece of music and collaborate with others.
ScoreCloud is available for Windows and macOS computers.
- Transcription of polyphonic and monophonic music recording
- Sync across all devices
- Simple and intuitive editing
- Instant score from MIDI and audio files
- The ability to print, export, and share the transcription
Pricing: ScoreCloud has a free version and two paid plans: ScoreCloud Plus ($4.99 per month) and ScoreCloud Pro ($19.99 per month). The paid plans come with a 10-day free trial and offer additional features, such as unlimited songs, no watermark, and the ability to export MusicXML.
AnthemScore is an automatic music transcription that converts WAV and MP3 files into sheet music. To ensure maximum accuracy, the application uses a neural network trained on millions of data samples and leverages machine learning to detect and arrange notes.
Users can also tweak notes using several powerful editing tools, customize their playback instrument, and print or save files as XML, PDF, and MIDI.
AnthemScore works with Windows, Linux, and macOS computers.
- Advanced editing tools
- Customization options for different instruments
- The ability to slow down playback without modifying pitch
- Automatic note detection
- Transpose settings that allow you to adjust pitch by a fixed number of octaves and semitones
- Visual representation of the audio spectrum
Pricing: AnthemScore offers a 30-day free trial and three paid plans. AnthemScore 4 Lite has a one-time payment of $29 and offers automatic transcription and the option to view, save, and print sheet music. AnthemScore 4 Professional costs $39 and adds the ability to edit notes, playback audio, and view a spectrogram, virtual piano, and timeline. AnthemScore 4 Studio costs $99 and offers all the aforementioned features, plus lifetime free software updates and priority for customer support.
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Other common music transcription software
While the above applications cover the full scope of music transcription, they aren’t the only available options. Below is a brief overview of three alternatives worth considering.
- NCH TwelveKeys
If you are a beginner wanting to dip your toes into music transcription, this application from Avid might be the ideal option for you. It has a built-in library for users to extract music as audio files and allows the export of scores as individual parts.
The software also has a wide selection of instruments, making it suitable for ensembles. It’s available on macOS, Windows, and iOS devices.
- Import and export MIDI files
- Library of score templates
- Magnetic layout for a more streamlined workflow
- The ability to load scores from MIDI files
- Downloadable plug-ins to extend the functionality of the application
Pricing: Sibelius is available in three plans: Sibelius First is free and offers a limited number of features. Two paid subscription plans cost $99 or $199 per year. Sibelius Ultimate comes with a free trial.
Soundslice is an easy-to-use sheet music editor that lets you create notations synced with real recordings. The software is entirely web-based and allows the import of music from other programs. Soundslice also comes with intuitive practice tools that let you slow down the recording, make a loop, transpose, and more.
Soundslice works with any browser updated in the last few years and across multiple devices, including desktops and smartphones.
- Video and audio playback
- Instrument visualizations
- See tablature alongside video and audio
- Customize notation
- Create loops of the recording
- Slow down audio without affecting the pitch
- View a virtual piano keyboard and fretboard
Pricing: Soundslice is available in four plans: Free, Plus ($5 per month), Teacher ($20 per month), and Licensing ($0.50 per user per month). The paid plans offer everything in the free plan plus additional features like access to version history, API access, and customer support.
TwelveKeys is a simple program that helps musicians transcribe music by creating a visual representation of notes in any recording. The interface is intuitive, so becoming adept at using it comes with virtually no learning curve. The software accommodates multiple instruments playing simultaneously and gives users the option to slow the recording and loop playback so no detail goes unnoticed.
TwelveKeys works with Windows and macOS computers.
- Tone-enabled piano keyboard for note identification
- Compatible with foot pedals
- Graphs monotone and polyphonic recordings
- Watch notes in real time
- The option to extract audio from a CD
- Loop sections of the audio recording
Pricing: The TwelveKeys Master’s Edition has a one-time payment of $80 but can be paid quarterly for $3.33 per month. The music transcription software can be bundled with sound editing, mixing, and other programs for a discount.
Hire a music professional for best results
While the software solutions discussed in this article are effective in transcribing music, the results are never guaranteed and can vary greatly from person to person. Variables like musical experience and the ability to get comfortable with new software will ultimately affect transcription accuracy. Consider hiring an independent music transcriptionist for the best possible results.
Ndiwano.com provides access to a large pool of top independent music transcriptionists to assist in the process of transcribing music. Letting a professional handle transcription can yield precise, clear, and reliable results in a timely fashion.